RIPLEY UNDER WATER
Tom Ripley, the charming, resourceful swindler/killer who's survived four earlier tales of skullduggery, provides just the antidote for the recent glum misogyny of seminal psychological- suspenser Highsmith's recent work. Tom's idyllic retreat to the French countryside with his perfect wife Heloise is spoiled by a pair of intrusive new neighbors, David and Janice Pritchard, who seem bent not only on disturbing his privacy--they have no trouble obtaining his unlisted phone number--but on persecuting him with dark hints about his earlier felonies. One of them, Tom's convinced, is the caller who identified himself as Dickie Greenleaf (Tom's first victim, from The Talented Mr. Ripley), and Pritchard not only shows up to photograph Tom's house but announces that he's been making inquiries about the late art-collector Murchison, whom Tom killed when he threatened to expose the Derwatt forgery scheme in Ripley Under Ground and whose corpse has been resting for years at the bottom of a neighborhood canal. When Pritchard turns up in Tangiers, hot on the trail of the vacationing Ripleys, Tom decides, after a typically inconclusive confrontation with his self-ordained nemesis, that he'd better cut short his trip to confer with his fellow Derwatt conspirators in London; and when Pritchard, with his wife's amused knowledge, moves from phoning Murchison's widow in the States to dragging the canals, Tom calls on Derwatt veteran Ed Banbury for help, not knowing how unexpectedly his plan will backfire. If Tom isn't as inventive as in his earlier outings, he's just as believably amoral, and no one rivals Highsmith's ability to mix apprehension--most of this novel lours like a storm cloud--with staring surprise. It's been 12 long years since The Boy Who Followed Ripley: welcome back, Tom.